EDITORIAL: Community ownership plan for Newcastle Knights

WOULD you stump up $500 to own a share of the Newcastle Knights?

That’s the question that seven Hunter business and sporting leaders are asking with their plan to raise $15 million to $20 million to put our beloved but beleaguered Newcastle Knights safely into community ownership.

As the Newcastle Herald is reporting, the seven self-described “community facilitators” are proposing an “Our Knights” business model that seeks to sell some 40,000 shares at $500 a share, with a maximum individual stake of 4 per cent.

If the ill-fated vote to give the Knights to Nathan Tinkler was a privatisation of the red and blue, this is a plan to pull the brand out of effective receivership. Having rescued the Knights from likely collapse, the NRL has held the club for two seasons, and has already begun a process to unload it.

Although 17 expressions of interest were lodged for the Knights, none were apparently compelling enough to convince the code’s administrators to move. Now, having received what they describe as a “supportive” reception from league headquarters, the “Our Knights” promoters believe that the Hunter can draw inspiration from the Green Bay Packers gridiron franchise, and the Barcelona and Portsmouth soccer teams, proving along the way that the “our town, our team” spirit is alive and kicking.

While not everyone in Newcastle is a Knights supporter, (or even a rugby league fan), it is fair to say that the region seems to feel better about itself when the Knights – and their round-ball counterparts, the Newcastle Jets – are doing well.

And there is more to the flow-on effect from sporting success than Monday morning “water cooler” conversations about the weekend’s results. In simple terms, success breeds success, and as also-rans in recent years, the Knights are finding it harder and harder to compete, financially, with the behemoths of the NRL.

By investing as individuals in the Knights, the people of this region – and the club’s supporters elsewhere – will be saying they care enough about the team, and what it stands for, to make a direct contribution to its future. Paid off in regular instalments over three years, the minimum stake of $500 is less than a weekly cup of coffee, which sounds like a small price to pay for the chance to make the Knights great again. As the saying goes: blue and red, never dead.

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